Along with the White House, the Empire State Building, and the Space Needle, the Pentagon is one of the most instantly recognizable buildings in the United States. But as this list of weird Pentagon rules demonstrates, what goes on behind its walls is anything but obvious.
Like the strange set of rules White House employees must follow, the bizarre protocol at the Pentagon might seem extreme. But the guidelines are in place mainly for security reasons. The Pentagon is one of the most important government buildings in the country, and certain measures are needed to protect the people and information found within its walls. History and tradition also play a role in government and military life, and these two worlds often meet inside the Pentagon.
Nevertheless, you may find yourself amused - or confused - by some of the unusual procedures and rules Pentagon employees must follow.
Parking is "a privilege and not a right" at the Pentagon. Most employees do not have access to the Pentagon parking lots, and the Pentagon Information Kit encourages staffers to make use of public transportation or ride-sharing programs.
Commuters who don't have a work-related need for a vehicle must park "on the other side of I-395, either in a private lot further away than Pentagon South Parking or at a metered space on the street (if you can find one)."
The uniformed military members who lead public tours of the Pentagon must not only be walking encyclopedias armed with tidbits galore about the building, they also must be adept at walking backward. That's right, they guide the entire hour-long, 1.5-mile tour while walking backward so they can keep an eye on potentially wayward tourists.
They might hazard running into a wall, but at least they won't risk someone wandering off or doing anything else that would be a security breach.
Only a small percentage of the offices within the Pentagon have windows. Of these, most face other offices or bare walls. That leaves a tiny fraction with actual views. These spaces are at a premium, and go to the highest-ranked civilian and military staffers.
The offices with a view are located in the area of the building called the E-Ring. Here you'll likely find the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of the Army, and even the Secretary of Defense.
In keeping with military protocol, service members working at the Pentagon must salute their superiors as if they were on base. That protocol even applies in the parking lots. The exterior areas of the building all have their own rules about saluting, which are detailed in the Army's Pentagon Information Kit. The North Parking entrance bridge, for example, is a "no hat, no salute" zone.
All service members must learn the identifying details of other military ranks, including those of foreign military members who may be stationed at the Pentagon, so they will know who to salute when walking around.